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Travelers are working out ways to find the best gyms while on the road

The travel trend reimagining fitness
WATCH: Correspondent Jon Marcus explains how the hospitality industry is meeting fitness enthusiasts on the road.

When many people book hotel rooms, they want to know the price. The location. The amenities.

The first thing Anthony Clark checks out is whether there’s a gym nearby.

Not just any gym. A branch of the gym to which he goes at home, where Clark pays for a membership that lets him use locations nationwide.

“All the equipment’s the same. The weights and everything’s about the same,” said Clark, who works out at the Life Time athletic club in Peabody. Hotel gyms, by comparison, he said — “even at a nice hotel, a five-star hotel — there’s really nothing there.”


So when he went to Green Bay to watch the Patriots play the Packers, Clark made sure that his hotel in Chicago was near a Life Time. Ditto in Arizona, where he had a business conference. And when he goes on vacation in the winters to Florida, and visits his daughter in New York.

Clark is among a growing number of consumers for whom serious fitness has become an indispensable part of traveling.

Some are buying multi-club memberships to big gym chains, so they never have to compromise. Equinox, LA Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and Planet Fitness also offer these, if at vastly different price points and with some restrictions on “executive” or “signature” locations.

Others are seeking out hotels with gyms that consist of more than treadmills and a chin-up bar, through new review apps such as Barbells Abroad, Hotel Gym Rater, and, whose GymFactor ranks hotels with up to five stars based not on their comfort or service but on the size of their gyms and variety of equipment.

A former Sears location in Peabody was revamped into a Life Time gym.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

“There’s been a change where fitness has gone from being from something you dislike to being almost cult-like,” said David Mason, a personal trainer and cofounder of Barbells Abroad.


Access to gyms or workout classes is a priority for more than one in four global travelers, according to a survey by Hilton. Among vacationers, the proportion is closer to 40 percent, and even higher for those in their mid-30s or younger, a separate survey, by Allianz Partners, found.

Some hotels have bulked up their gyms in response, adding personal trainers or striking deals with neighboring full-service gyms. The Equinox Hotel near New York’s Hudson Yards is essentially a 60,000-square-foot Equinox sports center with a hotel attached. The Four Seasons San Francisco also shares its building with an Equinox gym, to which guests get free access.

Even cruise ships, airlines, and airports are getting in on this trend. Celebrity Cruises has added in-person F45 Training classes and Peloton bikes on some of its ships, while Qantas is debuting a stretch and movement space for passengers on flights that will begin in 2025 between Sydney and New York and London.

An LA Fitness gym in Atlanta. Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

A gym called ROAM opened in July at the Philadelphia International Airport, joining an existing ROAM gym at Baltimore/Washington (both cost $25 a day or $35 a month for a membership), the ZEROlevel gym at the airport in Las Vegas, and airport gyms in Doha, Dubai, and Singapore. Passengers at O’Hare International Airport can use the 8,000-square-foot Hilton Athletic Club at the airport hotel for $22.40, or $16.80 for Hilton Honors members.

Whenever I talk to people about this, they say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a gym at the airport?’” said Christopher Berger, an exercise physiologist who chairs an American College of Sports Medicine task force on healthy air travel.


Even the kinds of vacations people take are being influenced by their demand for fitness. Heli Adventures, which offers high-end surfing, kitesurfing, heli-skiing, and mountain-biking trips, has added two “workout” holidays, one each in Greece and the south of England.

“Our customers are thinking about these things as part of their overall experience,” said Ethan Fischer, the company’s chief operating officer. “They don’t want to lounge on the beach or visit the spa. They are seeking much more active and engaging experiences.”

But most of the activity has been at hotels. The gym equipment companies Technogym and Life Fitness both have hospitality industry divisions, and Technogym’s has racked up record growth so far this year, the company reports.

Hotels “are understanding that featuring fitness is a given, and they need to compete,” said Technogym spokesman Enrico Manaresi. “That the hotel has a gym is not enough anymore. They have to offer people a standard, a level of quality that’s like the gym at home.”

That’s not always what guests have traditionally gotten. And the proliferation of controversial “resort fees” for use of the gym, among other things, has only served to make them angrier at the scrawny gyms they often find in hotels.

“A lot of hotels say, ‘We have a gym,’ but when you go there, you’ll have a couple of treadmills, mostly home gym equipment that someone would get for himself in a mid-life crisis,” Mason said. “It’s not commercial grade, so it’s often broken. The floor’s rock hard, and there aren’t any mats.”


This is beginning to change.

“Hotels see an opportunity to differentiate themselves,” said John Petrelli, a personal trainer and author of “Confessions of a Hollywood Trainer,” who consulted with two Los Angeles hotels to up their fitness game with new gyms and fitness classes. “With a little bit of investment, you’re going to get a great return.”

The Thompson Austin hotel, which opened last year, includes a 6,700-square-foot, full-floor fitness center with Technogym equipment, lululemon Studio Mirror interactive workout apps, Peloton bikes, and private fitness rooms.

The gym at the Thompson Austin hotel.handout

AKA hotels, which specialize in longer stays, also have more elaborate gyms and fitness programs than are typical. The newly opened Hotel AKA Alexandria features cross-trainers, stationary bikes, free weights, and circuit machines, plus fitness classes on an outdoor terrace; AKA West Palm, private sessions with personal trainers; and Hotel AKA Brickell in Miami, poolside yoga every Saturday and Sunday

“It’s really become something people are actively looking for when they travel,” said Natalie Vachon, AKA’s senior director of marketing. “They don’t want to disrupt the fitness routine they have at home.”

Some hotels have teamed up with neighborhood gyms and outside fitness providers. Gild Hall in New York City’s financial district offers discounted classes ($35 for two) at a nearby Orange Theory. Guests at Noelle in Nashville can get a pass to the local QNTM Fitness. Corinthia London last year started offering its guests free small-group personal training from the fitness provider Athletic Medical Performance. W Aspen hosts fitness events on its roof with local yoga and spin instructors. And the Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas in January introduced one-on-one introductory coaching sessions to Tom Brady’s TB12 method at from $199 to $300.


Others are adding beachside gyms, gyms on high floors with city views, and fitness equipment in some guest rooms.

The newly opened Tempo by Hilton Times Square has nine “wellness rooms,” each with a Peloton bike, yoga mats, resistance bands, a Theragun, and a Wave Roller.

The newly opened Tempo by Hilton Times Square has nine “wellness rooms,” each with a Peloton bike, yoga mats, resistance bands, a Theragun, and a Wave Roller.

Calilo, in Ios, Greece, whose regular guests include pro athletes, this year added a two-level gym under the graceful arches of a hand-decorated space designed by its artist owner.

The Hyatt Centric Downtown in Denver put its gym on the 15th floor with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. “We didn’t stick this gym in the basement with no windows,” said Colleen Huther, general manager. So important is fitness to many guests, she said, the company made sure the word “Peloton” showed up when people searched for the hotel because “there are people who will only stay in hotels with Pelotons.”

Many gyms are also adding in-room workout videos. The Wynn, for instance, also commissioned in-room workouts by the TV personality and fitness instructor Amanda Kloots. Arlo Hotels give guests access to 3,000 yoga, Pilates, strength, meditation, and high-intensity interval training classes, plus yoga mats in their rooms, through a partnership with the online fitness arm of the yoga apparel brand Alo.

Just as hotels are trying to capture fitness fanatics, fitness companies are seizing on an opportunity to hook hotel guests on their products. Those Arlo guests, for instance, get free 30-day subscriptions to Alo Moves when they check out, and a 30 percent discount for memberships beyond that. Peloton is putting bikes in 5,400 Hilton and subsidiary hotels, including Hampton Inns and Doubletrees, and Hilton Honors members will get a 90-day free trial of the Peloton app to use at home.

For travelers, however, the point is to continue their routines when they’re away.

“More and more now, exercise and fitness is a lifestyle,” Mason said. “It isn’t something that just ends on the tarmac.”

Jon Marcus can be reached at